This is how Photoshop resizes your images, mathematically speaking

Sep 8, 2016

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

This is how Photoshop resizes your images, mathematically speaking

Sep 8, 2016

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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The mathematical side of photography has always interested me. It can be mostly ignored by photographers, often only required to understand the exposure triangle. For me, though, the maths is part of what initially drew me into photography.

In this video from Computerphile, we learn what goes into some of the calculations that allow us to easily resize our images inside Photoshop with just a couple of clicks. It used to be that there was only one method of resizing images, and it wasn’t very good. Then, as processing power increased, we were able to perform more complex tasks more quickly. So, more advanced resizing methods become viable.

YouTube video

Other methods use yet more complex methods of resizing images, such as those found in ON1 Resize. Continuing from work started in the mid 90s under the name Genuine Fractals, it uses very advanced fractal based methods. These days, those calculations that used to take minutes or even hours (I remember playing with Genuine Fractals Pro on a 486 in the 90s), can happen in seconds.

Just how much maths involved with both the hardware and software we use on a daily basis was exciting to me at the time I got my first camera. While it’s not exactly the driving force behind my photography, I still find it fascinating today.

This isn’t going to interest every photographer out there, only those slightly geekier ones amongst us. But when you think about what goes into something as seemingly simple as resizing an image, it makes you wonder. Knowing the maths behind photography isn’t generally going to let you make better images, but it can be an intriguing study.

The maths that goes into things like the iPhone 7 Plus (and others) dual camera setups to calculate depth maps and simulate depth of field are pretty complex by comparison. The calculations for something like Lytro must be absolutely mind boggling.

Does the geeky, mathematical, technical side of photography get you excited? Or do you really not care and just want to shoot images? Let us know what you think in the comments.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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3 responses to “This is how Photoshop resizes your images, mathematically speaking”

  1. Karen Danks Avatar
    Karen Danks

    Fascinating! ?

  2. Adam Frimer Avatar
    Adam Frimer

    Love love love this

  3. donna31 Avatar
    donna31

    Very interesting, and confusing :D The only thing I knew about the photo resizing is this http://www.paintshoppro.com/en/pages/resize-images/ a simple how to :D never did it occur to me the math behind it :D